Special to WorldTribune.com
The case against a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who allegedly engineered a massive bribery scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran could also implicate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Reza Zarrab has pleaded guilty in a New York federal court.
Prosecutors described Zarrab, 34, as an extravagantly wealthy businessman who paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes and “waged economic jihad against the U.S.” to make a fortune for himself.
Zarrab’s alleged scheme provided Teheran with a large source of much-needed revenue at a time when its economy was under intense pressure from American and European sanctions.
Zarrab’s apparent cooperation with federal prosecutors also raised speculation that he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Flynn.
Shortly after Zarrab seemed to flip, Flynn’s lawyers terminated a joint defense agreement with the Trump defense team last week. Flynn’s lawyer reportedly met with members of the Mueller probe on Nov. 27, ABC News reported, indicated that Flynn may also be pursuing a plea deal.
The Zarrab case stems from a 2013 corruption scandal which allegedly revealed that top-level Turkish ministers took bribes to sign off on the sanctions evasions. Erdogan and his son allegedly were caught talking about how to hide money.
According to prosecutors in the case, before the scheme began in 2011, Turkey exported a total of $55 million in gold. A year later, it exported $6.3 billion in gold.
Zarrab pleaded guilty to seven counts, including one tacked on after his March 2016 arrest. Prosecutors said on Nov. 28 that Zarrab will testify against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy CEO at Turkish Halkbank, the only one of Zarrab’s seven co-defendants facing trial. The other six remain at large, including a former Turkish economy minister, Mehmet Zafer Caglayan.